“It gives us a voice,” says an artist based in Wales

An artist with autism has found his way of communicating with others through drawing. Now, he is collecting exhibits from artists with learning disabilities in Wales.

Stefan is very anti-realistic in terms of his artwork but there is a real playfulness to it. 

Stefan’s Parents didn’t believe their child could live independently. This is why Stefan Grasso determined to apply for the BA in Illustration. 

As an artist with autism, Stefan needed to prove to his parents he could live on himself. At last, he has not only finished his BA and even MA courses. 

Stefan said:” I imagine this is the experience of other students with autism. They would want them to live independently and the parents’ protective instincts or bias, I imagine that they would say you can’t live on your own. Maybe that’s something that parents say to their kids in general but because I had autism it was sort of magnified for me. 

“For me the urge to prove that I could cope on my own was a very powerful one. It created a certain set of anxieties but the fact that I tried to do this at all, I think it isn’t just your parents who will have views about how you can live in society. I think these are prejudices that are held in wider society and maybe even aspects of the same.” 

With a creative mindset Stefan got into art proper in 2014 when he did a BTEC course in college and in 2016 he decided to apply for university. Which he did in part because he wanted to live out the life of an independent person. He had lengthy discussions with his parents about this. 

Stefan came to Illustration BA spending a lot of time in university trying to figure out what he wanted but at the same time he didn’t care what he wanted. He was just experiencing university. 

He had some experience of working with exhibitions at that time. He tried to organise a solo exhibition that fell through because he didn’t realise the venue would not permit him to plan an exhibition on his own. In 2019, he got together with some classmates and organised another exhibition and this is when his entire BA group were getting together to organise their end of show exhibition. 

Stefan now works for a coming exhibition in October 2023 named “Windows”. It is an exhibition held for the neurodivergent and learning-disabled artists in Wales. 

He is looking for all kind of artworks from drawings, collages, sculptures to installations. 

Stefan would consider his art to be a surreal outsider art as out of all it is the label that he likes most. 

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous about the outcome. I’ve done this before but not to the same scale. I have no idea how this is going to go. I am actually pleasantly surprised that we have got the amount of interest that we have,” said Stefan. 

He has received a few art works right now. At the early stage of the project, He has promoted this exhibition on social media pages.  

Now basically at the point of rolling it out and seeing how many people want to be part of this exhibition. Stefan would collect art exhibits until late August giving himself enough time to prepare for the exhibition in early October this year. 

Stefan said he wants people to see those artists with learning disabilities to show what they are capable of. 

People with autism, from his experience, tend to have difficulties in communicating with others. Art certainly provides a way when they have a hard time in communications.  

It is one way in which they primarily open a window into their perspectives as well as thier thinking and feeling.  

“Well, I guess to put it bluntly, it gives us a voice. Most specifically an artistic voice if we are talking about creative capacity. It shows how creative we are. To the credit of some people who have applied to us are professional,” said Stefan.